So it’s the morning after the night with Eugen and his wife Katya and two daughters aged 14 and 10. also Nate and Keisha, Jimmy and Carrie, Baart for a while, Ekenah and Daniel and me. The tour around Eugen’s house made clear his talents as an engineer not just a handyman with carpentry as a hobby. A beautifully crafted porch from red oak and pine roofing. A landscaped garden of desert stone, trees, prickly pears and other indigenous plant life, and a sophisticated dripper system. Then inside wood paneling and wooden doors and floors everywhere, all laid by him. Having moved to Las Vegas and working for Cirque on O for four years and completing two thousand shows he said to his wife ‘I can’t do this anymore’ and so started a business trying to make ‘intellectual and philosophical theatre’.(in thick Uzbekistan accent) This the phrase he used in the court when facing cross examination by the prosecutor at his bankruptcy hearing. This usually a very grueling session but the prosecutor just looked at him and accepted this without argument. He and his family survived by his becoming a handyman doing everything from laying tiles and building to carpentry and masonry. Katya is a well renowned music teacher. He showed us a workshop built by himself filled with power tools and air-conditioning  to serve as a retreat and store for precious liquor. The theatre itself is about fifteen feet square off the kitchen and entrance hallway and is a marvel. Completely fitted out with sixteen or so channels of lighting, a complex sound desk, digital microphones to create effect of space, a smoke machine amongst other effects. Such love of theatre in every aspect of it.

The supper prepared by Katya is delicious starters of salad and humus and dips and asparagus in bacon and cheese and olives, then rice and chicken casserole. Home food. And enough also for non meat eaters to thrive. Careful consumption of liquor and then much time in conversation with Katya in the kitchen learning her history. Growing up in communist Uzbekistan and learning English from only the Morning Star and feeling the texture of the newspaper and saying to eachother with awe; ‘This paper was made in England!’ And her despising of western culture. Then her difficulties of moving to Germany with a small child then just as she had learned German their move to America. And to Las Vegas of all places. We spoke at length about how to survive and bring up children in American society and the difficulty she found and the challenges. The two daughters aged ten and fourteen are remarkably mature and confident without being precocious. The younger one tops the evening with a short recital in the theatre of cello works by Bach. Her elder sister declines to perform saying she has to get up early to walk the dog and then practice. The recital is punctuated by her focused attention on the score, lips gripping through the mistakes and a beaming angelic smile at the end of each piece.

My hopes for some performances in the space are disappointed but it is just not the kind of evening for that. Next time says Eugen.

The weekends make me homesick. Too much time to look around and see where I am and miss home. When I am busy working and training I am too busy to be depressed, but the weekends, even if doing activities to relax and distract everything seems to point to the fact that I am not at home. But, spent a fun evening with Dani Wylie my newly discovered relative from Canada who has been performing here as one of the Caesar Salad Chorus girls in the Bette Midler show at Caesar’s Palace. She is my sister Charlotte’s niece so technically also my niece, maybe once removed or something. She and her boyfriend Jason who plays one of the leads in The Jersey Boys, a big Las Vegas show about Frankie Valli (sp?) invited me to a benefit cabaret to fund a local education body. Lots of Broadway tunes I didn’t know but very skillful acapela performances and long catch-up-with-your-relative type conversations.

I was able to get there because we finally got to buying a car. And the world looks very different when you wake up in Vegas with a car in the garage…

Well the best decision Cirque ever made in its history has been to contract Don to come to Vegas to work on the resident shows and particularly on LOVE. Oh what Joy Joy Joy to have a real theatre person working on the show. His vision is clear, his notes are intelligent, thought-through, articulate, challenging, providing goals and targets and everything an actor could wish for in working on a role in an environment like this. The thing is also having worked in the creation of the work he understands the context and also the history of the development of each of the characters. Every time I see him I have to stop myself running up to him and saying ‘Hey Don what did you think…? Did you see the second show? What did you think of the alignment? Is there more hip flexibility? How was the physical attitude in Yesterday? Did you see the hand positions in Guitar, how as the consistency?’ Bliss.

Just spent twenty minutes on Skype talking to Janet and Matt and Isabel. There I was ten thousand miles away making animal noises for Isabel while she stared at the screen in disbelief. Turkey gobbles chicken clucks horse neighs and duck quacks resonated through the ether. Also saw Stella. I forget how small babies are at that age but it seems she is particularly so. Wow so good to see them and talk. Very good to see Janet there with Matt and Bridget and Elaine. It’s like Christmas she says.

Must go and check the mail, the box is probably bursting.

Advertisements

It’s the end of the second day of training and rehearsal and tonight I watched the show and fell in love with it straight away. The vision is exquisite. The execution is breathtaking for the most part and the entire experience awe-inspiring.

 

It is the most extraordinary privilege to be in the midst and sharing the stage with such amazing talent and skill and dedication and commitment and courage and humility and coolness. A truly humbling experience. A world beating call to order and wake up call and heads up, all in one or two days and one performance. The opportunity to play a character which might not have the sexiest moments of comedy but which contributes to the whole in a small but significant way and plays one of the supports that allows others to fly…

 

Speaking of which, I have been imagining Sgt Pepper flying over the audience during the Sgt Pepper reprise; the earth-bound early twentieth century mentality and world view is liberated by the music of the youth in which he invests his life. Also; why after the parade scene does he have to return to his military uniform? Is he not permanently changed right up to and beyond his apparent transformation of the jacket reversal. He is a different character after that… okay so military and dignified and self aware but less uptight and more with the possibility of release. Moments of weirdness in the psychedelic moments. More play there before sober return to in control Pepper.

 

It struck me also watching the show and seeing the audience surrounding me that one of the reasons people come to LV is to see shows like this. Not just gamble and party. To see shows. To see live theatre. Not movies. They come for and expect spectacle. But Cirque happily leaves another flavour in the mouth and feeling in the gut. 

 

 

Two days of input from Dominic and Armand (sp?) the creators of the show give some direction for action and supplement the work being done by Jo the acting coach and Kati the artistic director of the show who’s job I do not envy. It feels a little that her authority and control is undermined by their visit rather than supported. We are given a range of instructions and also the sense that the vision is not effectively communicated. There is a kind of vagueness about the transmission of directorial info. There have been so many versions and each one has their favourite. Each one has the way they want to see it. So for Kati to coordinate that must be very difficult. I am happy though to continue exploring within the limits set by all input. Dominic stressed the military discipline dignity of Pepper in all situations never to lose the inner strength and inability to completely let go. He does not allow himself to display feelings. Even after his major transformation in the parade. I expressed my concern about Pepper in the Sgt Pepper reprise number when Pepper at present dances along with the company. It felt incongruous to me watching and did not follow Dominic’s insistence on maintaining the military reserve. I proposed the notion of Pepper slightly elevated liberated from the earth to which he is bound at the beginning of the play. This idea is fairly dismissively swept aside by Armand, but Dominic says, ‘Yes you have a point and I will think about it.’ Kati points out that Craig who plays the role now had learnt the Korean rope climb and that this was a possibility. I was reluctant because a truly difficult skill to learn. But afterwards I approached Dan the head acrobat coach and told him my thoughts. He asked ‘Do you think you are athletic enough to learn it?’ I say ‘I would like to try.’  He says ‘It’s a long way down the track so at least start with simple rope climbing and go from there.’ I am happy.

 

Something makes me skeptical about whether I will hear anything further on this  from Dominic. I ask in the open note session if he had any thoughts and he (a little defensively) said ‘No I am a slow creator and can’t wave a magic wand and solve the problem.’ Later, seeing me in the office, he repeats this so perhaps it will stay with him… He said to one of the other actors he is not a director, he is a writer and that makes sense because the notes he gives are expressions and descriptions of his original vision, concepts and sources and ideas. There is little which works with the specific dynamic of the individual actor to create a stage presence and performance which will serve the show. It is up to the actor to craft something from all the input from the previous player, the acting coach, the artistic director and the creator, much of which might well be contradictory.

 

This is the second of my first two days off. First weekend which this week falls on Monday and Tuesday. Monday woke early and did my laundry. I love doing laundry there is something very calming about the routine and especially pleasing is the folding of clothes as they come out the drier. Then to the bank and setting up an account and on line access and a system of transferring money to accounts back home. Helped by Travis and all set up. Then back home finish clothes, met by Nate and LaKeisha(sp?) for breakfast. We all seem to share the same hangover as last night I met them across the road at the brewers for a very interesting local beer and then a margharita and then a night cap with Dan in their room. One tequila too many and then to bed to find Janet on line and depressed with no contact on Mother’s day. I do not deal well with it as usual after a drink or two so we have better contact in the morning. Breakfast is at Blueberry Hill a pancake and breakfast place about a mile away. A walk there fills us up and a long walk home exhausts me. At two o’clock I stagger into bed and fall a sleep and stay that way til 4.30 this morning. Then on and off til 5.30 and up to the computer. Daniel and I are going to look at Elizabeth’s house today and perhaps some others. Elizabeth is the young acrobat who is going back to Quebec and is renting her house. Am enjoying the quiet dull of the day.

So with help from Nate and La Keisha (sp?) we get the car hire company to fetch us from the hotel and take us to their office and we hire a car. Well I hire actually and Daniel of the beautifully crafted hangover proceeds to direct us toward Salt Lake City until I engage my natural sense of direction which leads us back to the hotel and then down some slowly located routes to Elizabeth’s house. And we arrive only half an hour late. Hey it’s the first time I ever sat in the left while driving on the right and looked in the rear view mirror on my right. Took a while of careful concentration to get right. But we got there and managed to enjoy ourselves. Me especially when I accelerated slightly too quickly, not being used to an automatic car, which action would evoke the satisfying sound of Daniel’s groan of nausea as he was pressed back into the seat and his head thrown back… It was the only place either of us had the energy to go and look at and it took a good two hours. Staggered home fell into bed and slept until 1.30 or so. Then awake for two hours and then back to sleep til 5.30 and up…

Re-watching the training tape with me and Rodrigue for LOVE it is striking that the costume and opening section of Dreamland have extraordinary resonances with Sgt Pepper. Military uniform, age, disorientation and clutching a cello. The size and style of the performance. The non verbal mimic nature of it. The size of the venue and the style of the work all have strange and uncanny synchronicity.

Also; strange thing in the hotel; I am a non believer. I don’t believe in ghosts and spirits and psychic events. I believe they are explanations of psychological or some other mental activities which we don’t yet understand . But; so Quanita reports that she is convinced there is a ghost in her room. I quietly but respectfully poo-poo her notion while listening to it. Then two nights later… no during the day I am sleeping in the hotel room. I have lain down on top of the bed and fall asleep. I dream that I am sleeping on top of the bed just as I am and suddenly I feel a very heavy pressure, like a body, lying on top of me. It is invisible abut very palpable. Scary and very real and as though I am only half awake. There is also something a bit sexual about the pressure. I describe this to Quanita and Nick, who overhears, points to Quanita and says ‘That’s exactly what she felt.’ ‘Yes,’ she says, ‘Pressure on the chest; the feeling that someone was pushing down on me and then standing at another point in the room.’ Pretty weird. I mean weird that we should both have the same psychological reaction to the context and events…( dee dee dee dee – twilight zone theme)

A few hours of funny and upbeat layover in Harare airport in which the company clowns a good deal with eachother as we try to divest ourselves of millions of Zim dollars before going home. Sibu helps me choose some great clothes for Izzie, and we leave the land of my birth. Joburg hums in its welcomingly familiar way, and feels like home. Michael treats me to a gargantuan meal of sushi and prawns in Melville and I stagger into bed on the day before launch. We have a quick meeting with Nick Boraine about the possibility of extending the work of the play through another project with possible links to the Institute for Transitional Justice(sp). We plot a quick, probably too quick, proposal. The idea is to take the experience of the tour of Truth and the exercises and workshop structures to a wider spread of people in conflict zones. The idea is beautiful, and Nick is just perfect to drive it. Michael and I bid farewell over a Jamiesons in the airport and I am off. Three flights of ten hours, nine hours and three hours with some six hours in layovers. And every seat is in the middle of the middle row. Not one aisle seat not one window. What is this? Karma? What did I do?

Eventually turns out not too bad. The flight attendant moves me in the middle of the night to an aisle seat further up the plane. Not quite further up to be in business class but at least an aisle seat. I am settling in and a woman returns from the loo and says; ‘That’s my seat.’
‘I am sorry the flight attendant just put me here. Okay I’ll move to the one next to it.’
‘No that’s also mine.’
‘Both seats are yours?’
‘Yes I was lying down.’
‘Oh I am not sure what to do because the flight attendant moved me to give room to a woman so she could sit with her husband and child, so my old seat back there is gone.’
‘Yes but these are my seats.’
‘Okay I don’t want to argue with you, I am just doing what I have been told like the well brought up catholic boy.’
‘Yes thank you, these are my seats.’
I stagger up the aisle and find the stocky flight attendant who thumps back down the aisle and craps on the woman who then flouncily shifts her feet up and lies on the now three seats instead of four which she had before I got moved. She continues to sulk with her feet while I stretch out and try to sleep. Later her husband/partner guy lies down in her place and spends the next hour or so farting at me in subtle latino nuances. I suspect he does this in revenge for being forced to speak to his harridan wife who wasn’t sleeping so well now that she only had three seats to stretch out on instead of four. The joys of international travel in economy class.

So it’s the morning of Thursday the 8th may. Day one of Las Vegas and some plenty or so to go…

Flying in by the time I got to looking out the window and seeing the desert I had been traveling for more than twenty eight hours and so it initially struggled to make much of an impact. But then it did. Actually a lot. Strange brown colour and rocky ruggedness all the way to the horizon. Patterns of erosion and water flow details in amazing fractal patterns as far the eye can see. And every now and again the brown shades broken by flashes of red rock bursting through the top soil. A huge dam, the Hoover Dam I learnt later from Nate and LaKiesha(sp?) the new Fool in the show and his girl friend. Very cool people who hospitably invite me in jet lagged delirium to a barbeque by the pool of the hotel.

I am met at the airport by Carlos who will be fetching me today for my appointment to get a social security number. Some few other of the dancers – two South Africans, Mike and Campbell; very good to meet them and also Lincoln who plays Mr Piggy. English actor with fun dry sense of humour and who has been in the show since creation and so has a very specific view of the process. Altogether feel welcomed by other artists and today have a schedule that takes me from social security to some HR orientation the to theatre tour and then to physio intake evaluation this evening. Can’t wait to see the show.
The city is overrun with casinos (surprise) but is much bigger than I had imagined. Spread over a huge valley including many residential areas. Will go out with Dan next week or so to look for places to rent once we are finished here in the hotel. Last night jet lag and unfamiliar bed meant that I slept in hour long bursts. Feel okay now but will probably need a nap or two to adjust. Room high speed internet connection I am happy to say. I waited up until ten or so my time to try and ensure a long sleep but it didn’t really work also I waited up to be able to call Janet in the morning before she went to work. Managed to get skype to give us very ragged and interrupted voice contact. Tried with chat and finally got in touch just as she was going out to the monument to oversee the girls dancing.

I sit now typing and listening to Mbira Dzenharire and repeating the songs learnt in Zim; one the Xhosa song taught by Thembi and Sibu about the bones of the ancestors gathering to the call and the other song a call to freedom in Ndebele. Want to avoid letting go of these things so African and so buried in my bones don’t you know, now that I am buried in Americana.

So day one in Las vegas. Well night one was fraught with lack of sleep and unfamiliar bed and waking every hour or so and thinking where the hell am I and the answer coming back ‘Vegas, dude…’ and then back into troubled half sleep. For some reason, perhaps the dry or perhaps the foot-swelling-prevention flying socks that I wore for the thirty odd hours of travel, the excema behind my knee exploded about half an hour out of Chicago. But better now through uncompromising discipline of no scratch and some anti-itch moisturizing cream from the supermarket. But finally awake at 5.00 am and so up and showered and shaved which took an entire pack of disposable razors, but the result not too shabby, if a touch flabby round the jowls. Go in to the offices and encounter the father son thing in spades…’oh my god you’re the dad, you look so much alike!’ ‘Yes.. strong genes … what? Yes he’s a good boy, yes charming very nice and if he’s not then I will tell his mother so he’s better watch out.’ ‘Yes very well brought up thank you…’ It used to be; ‘Him? Oh yes, he’s Andrew Buckland’s son.’ And now? ‘Him? Oh yes, he’s Daniel Buckland’s father.’

Final day starts badly. No internet connection in the room and an early start with Rodrigue. So up at 6 as usual; ablute. Have to shave again cos more make up training today. Ow, hate that. Nothing to scrape off anyway, thank god for the body shop shaving balm which Janet gave me for Christmas. It also actually has saved my excema ridden ass. Not that the excema is on my ass. It’s still behind my knee and elbow. A combination of stunning self discipline and balm has slowed down the excruciatingly pleasurable itch and scratch and weep and crusty angriness. But I digress. Quick trip down to the internet centre and some calls to Janet at home and sms to her cell and then a call; ‘Where are you? Gym? Its lunch time. We didn’t manage to speak yesterday and now today is full and I leave tonight.’ Damn not even Miriam at home. And Janet said she has some significant news for me. Nothing in the e mail except a request for the blog address. Wait for the half hour I can afford to and then flee. Quick bit of fruit, deliver the remainder to Daniel’s room finish packing up the room. Bed stripped, dishes washed floor, swept and things prepared for a hasty departure at 5.00 pm to get to the airport at sixish for the 20h00 flight to Paris then Joburg. But that’s after a full day. So pockets full of pears and banana and a veggie juice and over the road for a warm up in the space before Roderigue gets there.

My pelvis and upper thighs are pleasingly stiff from the yoga two days ago. Work with the baton a little. Then Roderigue is there and he goes through a detailed playing out of sections of his performance. Most of the info is technical. Put the baton here the lift is coming up over there watch out for the guy on the bicycle coming this way, be prepared to tell the others if the lift is not coming up here and then wait for the acrobats before exiting down this runway here.
He does a funny thing with the door, the entry to the rehearsal room. Every time he comes in, he goes for the wrong side of the door and its locked so has to take the other one. The seven or eight times he comes in and out the room while working with me over the few days he does this. I point this out to him and we have a good laugh about it. Then we share a good laugh when Dominique does the same thing. I share with Roderique my habit at home of the outside lamp on which I always hit my head going the one way. It’s been about a hundred and thirteen times I’ve done it now, and the lamp has only been up for a couple of years. Anyway watching him do the door introduces his quite funny earnest clown. He’s very precise about the movements and although they are not inspiringly creative or inventive or startlingly interesting they are deliberate and completely thought through and delivered with precise accuracy every time. The session is filmed by Danielle for later reference but the music is playing and you can’t really hear what he’s saying to me but it will prove useful later on. The time runs out as my yoga instructor arrives.

Her English is not very good but we have a laugh at my even worse French and she leads me through a painful and detailed hour and a half of pelvis opening thigh stretching agony and twisting so that I can sit in lotus as Sgt Pepper. Its fun and she is a very good tutor. I am carrying a lot of tension in my shoulders these days and need lightness. Something I keep demanding from students; old habits crept back. I see myself also carrying my head poked forward and shoulders rounded. No open chest. Have to change this. This ends and I go to physio. Marie Helene takes me through several exercises with the thera-band elastic thingy and then forgets to give me one. She writes down the exercises for me and I fly off to try to get home and Skype Janet as its early evening for her and would really like to talk to her before tonight when I won’t have a chance before getting to Joburg which will be hours away. Still no luck. More room pack up and clean out. Only half an hour, stuff down the pear and veggie juice. Run back for costume fitting. Pants are tight across the knee and limiting in the groin for bends. Have to get this right. Lots of movement and 472 performances to go. Also the jacket is carefully tailored to enable movement. This fitting better. But it’s not in the thick material. Mark the cutter wants another measurement of my inner leg and asks me to hold the tape measure as high up as possible. ‘At my genitals?’ I ask awkwardly. ‘No behind.’ Behind? That’s my poephol. You want to measure my leg from poephol to the ground? I hope my pants aren’t going to be snug against my peophol. I slyly lower it a fraction to give my peophol some breathing space and silently thank him for not holding the tape himself.

Then rehearsal with Danielle, but first a quick lunch, pass Daniel and Masha having had lunch together. Fast mover that boy. Delay rehearsal for few minutes to skoff down some grub. Veggie lunch is some potato and lentil and mielie mix not very appetizing. Hey, I’m starting to feel a bit tired. The yoga took it out of me and also the feeling of rushing this to that and with only a few minutes to spare to get to the airport. I check in with Bettina on the flights and she points out if I want to catch the plane, it being Friday and rush hour, I will have to leave before five and I have my last stilt session until five and it’s the one where I am due to be let loose, no training wheels. Damn. Anyway cancel that and make plans to leave straight after make-up training.

Daniel and I have also spent some good evenings watching the Beatles anthology and drinking wine and eating. The last night I finally brought myself to cook the pasta I’d bought on the first day. Nothing astounding. But good. We share some laughs. He tells me of sitting in the make up chair and chatting with David from LA who is taking over the lead clown in Corteo. (The lucky fucker he gets to work on the aerial equipment.) Anyway he deserves it; nice guy. Amazingly skew face which is exaggerated when he puts on the clown white. Anyway Dan is sitting in make up and they chat and he is asking Daniel what he does and Daniel tells him oh he works as a juggler and on the ring..
‘What, that big ring that rolls around the stage and…?’
‘Yes that’s the one.’
‘But that takes six months to learn…’
‘ and some trapeze work..’
‘ wow.’
The make up artist talks and David can’t understand and Daniel translates for him.
‘You speak French?’
‘Yes a little I was a translator for the UN for a few years.’
‘ Really??’
‘No, not really, I’m just joking.’
‘Fuck you.’ says David. His gullibility in the face of Daniels sweet faced bullshit is endearing (he wrote condescendingly). I am missing Daniel and can’t wait to see him again in LV.

But then in the middle of make-up training in comes Bettina; emergency… Air France has changed its complete itinerary. Flight cancelled. So; two alternatives one immediately and… ‘Forget the other one.’ I say. Stop, make up wipe off, pack up and run. Catch Daniel in the apartments quick goodbye. Get him to e mail Yvette about the flight change and hit the taxi. Then all smooth for the most part seven hours to Amsterdam. Then ten hours of daytime flying to joburg surrounded by a group of very excited twelve year old Scots kids going to the Kruger Park, and an eight year old girl behind me with a higher degree in chair bumping. KLM don’t have individual screens etc. but anyway I’m going home and looking forward to the Truth rehearsals. Long wait for baggage and I so nearly walk away with another person’s case which is almost exactly like mine even with the same lock but different enough to make me think that maybe he grabbed mine and left; wouldn’t that be sweet. Difficult to think clearly because jet-lagged and then long story short got home; great to see CJ and Emma and Yvette.

Try as hard as I could, I found it very difficult to encounter a single asshole at Cirque. The best group of aliens and others you could wish for. In every department people of such cool attitude and demeanour and no ego issues just excitement about the projects. Its corporate culture of cool . Its another planet; Planet Circus. Every single person positive energetic engaged committed helpful; you’ll never meet an asshole in Cirque. Trainers, administrators, tax experts, contract negotiators, technicians, artists caterers the lot. How can that be? This is after a week.

The prospect of Zim looms large and inviting. Change is a comin’. And if there’s going to be a festival in Zim then I want to be there and play. Very lucky.

Sunday night; day three four whatever. Today woke early again with a slight hangover from drinking with Daniel. Be the death of me that boy. Went down early to the internet café here in the cirque apartments and plugged in laptop for some Skypey action with home. No camera but good to see Janet’s face and hear her voice. We planned to talk again after her gym but no luck. Left some messages and then had a sleep to resolve jet lag and woke up to watch the sunset from Daniel’s room and automatically phoned home. It rings and then seconds later I realize that it is one thirty in the morning there.

 

But some time on Sunday went for a measurement session at the studio. Had to change into a very fetching g-string jock-strappy support type thing and powder blue lycra leotard thingy so that every fold of love handle and flab and failing muscle tone really stands out. Then Richard measures my body. In great detail; distance between nipples, over the shoulder from one nipple to the waist at the back, from the left ear over the head to the clavicle. Across the back armpit to waist mid thigh top of thigh bottom of thigh across the foot instep to arch. Ankle to floor etc. Took an hour, tried three pairs of shoes. An hour and a bit of glancing furtively into the huge mirror to see if stomach hanging out, flab just flabbing, excema displaying its crusty weepy angry red patch behind the knee and creeping around the side?  But the poo seems to approach the ventilator tomorrow with the day filled with appointments with everyone from immigration and contracts to integration and admin kak before training. Hopefully that starts Tuesday. Don’t even know what that entails. Can’t wait; nervously anticipating. Who knows what to expect. I expect I am out of condition and stiff and unfit that’s what I expect, but the regime begins soon and what a change you will see ladles and tablespoons. Ja. Believe me.

 

Well now its four o clock in the morning; the next morning Monday, and suddenly I have no wireless connection in my room. I suppose it’s just there to confuse and disorientate me. I am presuming this is another test they are putting me through. ‘Watch him and see how he reacts.’ Well they should know I’m made of tougher stuff. I’ll just take my laptop down to the internet café and plug in, so there. I am having slight withdrawal from not having spoken to Janet for a few too many hours. It’s about ten o’clock there now and I could call her at work but my connection is down.

 

There is no reason or logic in complaining about my situation since I brought it on myself. I chose this. This Spartan living, cleaning up myself, simple means. You came to boot camp remember? Time to toughen up. Get fit emotionally as well as physically, intellectually, creatively. You are not supposed to be wallowing in comfort. This is going to be hard. Yes but I miss Janet. My light in the darkness. Without her things are dim. The sudden disappearance of erratic wireless connection in my room points me toward my reliance. Okay going down now with my laptop hope the café is open.

 

 

So; woke up this Monday morning at 4 and couldn’t sleep. Not a bad night though and got to sleep early so actually okay plus it gave me time to get down to the café with no one about and try and get hold of Janet. Struggle with failing connections but at least later today we had some time but only by calling her. Skype not being very cooperative. Good to make contact though. Calming. Then lay down and had another doze. My alarm clock works and so does Daniel wakes me up at seven when I was just getting into a nice last minute doze yes of course I’m awake… dressed, shower, teeth and casual clothes. Just a t-shirt and jersey; hell, its blazing bright outside. Then time right; fill my arms with breakfast foodstuff for Daniel and head off down the passage. Cereal, milk, bread and cheese. Then quick goodbyes; ‘hey it’s the first day at Bootworts!’ (a mixture of Hogwarts and bootcamp.) And then later Daniel says ‘yeah actually its making me think more and more of Charlie and the chocolate factory.’ All these rooms with all these amazing people doing extraordinary things. Visionary, impossible things based on pure human ingenuity, stamina and hours and hours of training. The building is big and exciting; a mixture of corrugated iron and concrete and grey and colours and angles and steel and glass and cushions and pictures everywhere. We give each other the thumbs up and I stride off down the passage and across the road. Yikes! A bit colder but ag, I will spend most of the time indoors anyway. Wrong entrance. Get to right one. Through the automatic sliding doors. ‘Hello, bonjour I’m here to see Silvia Huaman?’

‘A quelle heure?’

I think he’s saying ‘atelier?’ whatever that means, perhaps its ‘office?’

No. He repeats. I get it and say ‘Yes, seven thirty, exactly now’. He can’t find the number or the office. I show him the letter and finds the name

‘Ah Silvia, not ‘Sylvia’ like I had written in the visitor’s registration.

’Pardon, pardon’. Good to practice that one. Usually get to use it a lot.

 

Silvia arrives; she’s from Peru and worked with immigration for a long time and now for Cirque and part of a huge office; a whole floor full of offices just to manage immigration. But then it makes sense. I thought Cirque was huge. Its way bigger. So quick fill in forms, collect token for taxi, have picture taken, more forms and go order an taxi, ‘Your interview is at eight thirty’ and the letter says it in big letters across the top; DON’T BE LATE. So I am running down the passage. Doorman calls a cab it takes five minutes of the fifteen I have to get to the consulate. We go, it takes 25 minutes and the whole ride I am watching the clock and trying to control my breathing because I re-discover I have a paranoid fear, a real terror of being late for work or official engagements commitments. And every light is obviously red, but we get there. There’s a queue, but it’s now ten to nine; I am thirty minutes late. Aaauugh!! The doors are closed and the queue of ten, twelve people is standing in a line on the pavement and the wind is thrilling down the street. I go to the doors looking lost; just like every other lost soul that turns up and doesn’t know whether to join the queue or go straight in. ‘Are you here for an interview?’ A woman goes in, so I figure follow her but the security guard blocks the way pushes us back

‘Exit the building’.  

‘But I…’

‘Exit the building ma’am. Sir?’

‘I have an interview at…’

‘Sir join the queue’.

‘Okay.’

Instantly I obediently hustle to the end, turn face into the brisky breeze and hope its right. I am not half an hour late for my interview with the American consulate for a work permit! The guard comes wandering down the queue weeding out the one’s who shouldn’t be there and fielding questions who complain about their difficulties. He clinically and politely organizes the queue. I ask him, ‘I’m afraid I’m gonna be late.’

‘No, its good til eleven’ .

Breath out and lean. No problem; queue for hours if I have to. At least I’m not late. Its cold now and the thin jersey and t-shirt is becoming regrettable. He lets in two or three then finally one at a time into the warmth of the first step inside the building leading up to the security doors.

Long story short (because all tension gone); Lined up, sat waited, handed forms, smiled, answered simple questions, waited, watched the number board and then got called again receipt . Out the building first taxi; ‘Take me to the Cirque studio s’il vous plait’. Get there; doesn’t take the coupon. Pay, get a receipt, get money, go to next meeting. Sent home for lunch after getting Cirque security card entrance etc.

 

Go home, look for Daniel, back to the cafeteria. Good, (no, actually outstanding) food, the place packed. Heading home, look for Daniel. No, actually the front desk security sees me fumbling with my new card at the gate opening thingy and he gives me clear instructions in accented English. I try to follow. No, I try hard to appear as though I am following so that he doesn’t think I’m stupid as well as unilinual. Then after coming out after lunch I can’t remember what to do so I think I’ll pretend to fill out this form and watch what other people do. But then there’s Daniel heading off too. And he doesn’t know what to do either; we joke with our cards who can open the door first and go home giggling. I tell him my visa story. he tells me his tour of the building and medical.

 

I fill in my form and he heads back for head moulding. I go with Lili? And fill in some more forms, collect visa expenses and some sense of timetable; contract, later physio, medical examination; first into the gym and Rookie the physio lady does her thing. Inspections of every joint, physical function and reflex, balance after checking medical history. Passed a clean bill of health for performance of contract with a note to work on right shoulder strength and attention to tendonitis.

 

Then back to Lili and hallo into the studio and Daniel is sitting with Dominique the Director of LOVE and Renald the (clown and theatre?) coach. The first thing I notice about Dominique is that he’s had some dental work since the Varekai movie. He had just planned to speak with Daniel but then took the time to try to present to both of us his vision of the characters. He talks a lot with some clear images and concrete notions to work with and hold on to. He says our approaches will be different;

‘Daniel don’t watch the video. Andrew it doesn’t matter if you do because Roderigue made this role and its near perfect so I don’t want you to look beyond what he does for the moment.’

My heart sinks.

 

But then I don’t even know what Sgt Pepper does or who he is or what he role is. Dominique talks some more about it; the leader of this imaginary military band. That he conducts and knowing war he knows the need for peace and clear sight and the dignified confidence of the soldier; he becomes the soldier of peace; leading this quest for love and peace. He is a kind of Moses? (I was thinking.) With a religious feel. What else? Watch the anthology and this video of Roderigue’s performance in close up. Have to admit I am disappointed.  Obviously the video is no way to assess. Not disappointed by his performance, just by the role, the demands. The physical acting demands seem very similar much of the time; the dynamic he presents feels one dimensional on the screen. Tomorrow I meet him for a session together. I am thinking much more specific movements and rhythms and use of stop and pause and contrary actions and tensions. More detailed choreography. More dynamic. Watch the dvd again and think about each scene. 

 

Then Dan and I meeting with tax expert with wonderfully confusing charts and lists and instructions and a few more forms and depressing news about deductions and social security deductions and the agony of return submissions. ‘Keep the slips’ etc. then Daniel and I home with a handful of Beatles anthology dvds. Watched two, had some beer and a sandwich each. Better cook the pasta tomorrow night before it’s too late. Then to this and to bed.

so I had a coule of things to see to before departure. and phoebe was one of them. and you need to hear about some of the others before we actually get to the circus bit. So Phoebe is the dog. One of the dogs. The designer dogs. A few years ago Janet got one of those enduring ideas (which don’t leave her until implemented) of having a weimeraner. Can I remember how that started? I know Bubesi our big black half Labrador was also half prize weimeraner, but when did we get our first weimeraner? Was it Felix? And was it before or after she saw the book by what’s his name on dressed up weimneraners. Either way it was something that Janet fixed on and so we began to have them. Beautiful dogs. Felix who was run over while following Bubesi on a midnight breeding scavenging ramble. Then ripley the mad. Neurotic but adoring of Janet and so favoured above Bubesi the stinker and one who lived outside. Bubesi of the oily skin and slobbery nature. Loyal and independent and one who knowing he was wrong would lie down and admit wrong doing. ‘Yes I opened the rubbish and strew the contents over the garden. It was wrong. I am a bad dog.’ So I would smack him. He would take it. I would smack him again. He would take it. If, out of my childish human power need and weakness, I chose to hit him again, and this he considered beyond the measure of his guilt, he would growl bare his teeth look me in the eye and say ‘okay that’s enough’. And frowning I would back off. He smiling wagging an apologetic tail and making friends ‘okay? Okay now?’ After a while I took to smacking him with the broom so as not to get too close to the snapping jaws of justice he delivered to contain the sadist in me.

But I digress. Ripley; devoted to Janet and so favourite and early demised through the swallowing of a golf ball which, undetected, remained in his gut for two years before blocking the duodenum and killing him. Janet dimmed with grief and when did it happen? The day after I left for a tour. Ironic how that seems to happen. I am reminded suddenly of several injuries incurred while throwing myself between Ripley the mad and Bubesi the ageing patriarch challenged by his favoured rival. Marsh strand house; dividing them by glass. In the car; by two leashes. But then off went Bubesi. Spinal cancer. I remember sitting in the car with Janet and sobbing with the loss. He was so big. Not just in size. But then as companion for the mad Ripley, Phoebe the sweet arrived and stole the heart of Janet with devotion. But this place of at her side was controlled by Ripley the mad. Until his demise with the golf ball. Ironic again because of his obsession with balls generally and chasing them specifically. Not in a doggy type ‘throw and I’ll chase’ way but more a ‘oh my god the ball! its in his hand! its going to fly! wait its going… no no wait. Yes!! There it is fuck fuck ! its gone! come here! come here, got you!!’ the intensity of his waiting and chasing and triumph of return was awe inspiring. The drama of a full scale pack-saving hunt was in every sinew of every muscle which rippled and shivered with anticipation of the release of the sphere. This was nothing to joke about. Life and death. And so eventually death by golf ball. The vet was too slow to diagnose and too timid to make a move before the fatal septicemia took hold. Daniel was there working through it with Janet.

So after Ripley then Zeke. Zeke the vocalist. The singer. The Mario Lanza of dogs. Even as a puppy groaning and reflecting every emotional shift with his voice. Not the simple bark when you come home but full throated song of welcome a howl shout bark yodel song of joy at your return and a whining howling dirge of sadness and loss at your every day departure. Always the walk begins with barking announcements to the neighbours; ‘Hey everyone they’ve taken me out again yes we’re out!! We’re walking! Look every one! Catch it now cos it doesn’t happen often! What a fucking miracle!!’ Shame hovering over us skulking down the all too seldom road traveled with dogs on leash. Zeke still sings; ‘Oh yes okay it should happen every day but don’t be too hard on them. They’re too busy to face up to the responsibility of having two large hunting dogs.’

So then Zeke and Phoebe the devoted couple. Much time spent in mutual ear licking, curling up together, more mutual grooming and snuggling. He neurotic when she gone and she in blissful solitude without his interfering head that he would always thrust in between a patting hand and her head. ‘What about me me me.’ And always in song.

But then phoebe got this parasite – spirocerca – what a fucker. Slowly killed her by blocking her oesophagus. Making eating a painful, but really painful, laborious effort. Another doggy irony in the light of her obsession with food. If Ripley obsessed over balls, then after her spaying, Phoebe began to see food as the source of all serious joy. Anything edible. In fact she would only find out if it was edible by eating it. Berries, flowers, beetles, dog shit and oh yes that speciality of walks in the park; human shit. A stomach full, which was then vomited up at the kitchen door just at the place where you couldn’t open the door without smearing it over the floor and so forced to pick up this pile of human shit-vomit. How she endeared herself to us those days. Me gagging as I lovingly scooped the poop-barf and she looking over my shoulder with an eager ‘Are you finished with that? Cos I’m not…’ So by eating shit or dung or dung beetle or something she caught this parasite which slowly over a year or so killed her, starved her to death. so thats why everyone had to say goodbye to her on the day of departure minus one.

this is day two. Day one went like this. No wait, day minus one. Woke up still under the impression that I was waiting for the Canadian visa to come through. Well I was still waiting but I didn’t know it was already ready. Had been since the 25th. Which was just as well because that was when we, my light and Daniel and me were on holiday in plett. The so called last holiday before our departure for a long time. So, precious time. But day minus one started with consulting my list to see that everything I had planned to get together for my departure had been realized; my list of chores I had set myself and lets face it had been set for me by my light in order for her to endure the time of being deserted for over a year. Things like house security and things like that. Pretty much all of which I had done. So a couple more to complete. And also me getting concerned because the time was drawing near when the deadline for departure would arrive and no news from the consulate.

Anyway back to the beginning. The day started at dawn with tea from my light. And some time staring out the window at the garden that fills me with joy and slight despondency; beautiful and too big  and typical of a whitey in sa. But the birds are enough to distract one as they bustle for time in the water feature come bird bath we placed especially in our view.

 Then up with cereal etc to get the bowels going. Stand up hold in the gut and try not to scratch the excema behind my knee which has flared up in the last month or two. Also in my elbow. On the left. What is that? A healer at st francis health spa told me once there was something wrong with my left side especially my left testicle. That got me worried. I’d always been a little sensitive about my testicles; thought they were too small and shrinking because I masturbated so much as a pubescent; but then got to see some others and got over it. Especially because before any of my friends I started to breed. My balls worked. Only too well. But this is beside the point. Up to the loo hold in the damn stomach which has started to flab, pee and dress.

 First job; get everyone to say goodbye to Phoebe.